Check the Transmission Fluid Level on Your Ford Truck

Ford Explorer parked under shade trees

 RL GNZLZ/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Checking the automatic transmission fluid level in your Ford V8 used to be a simple procedure. You needed only to find the dipstick, check the dipstick, and add fluid if needed. Those were the good old days and sadly, they are long gone. To check the fluid level in your truck these days, you need more time and more tools. Does this mean you shouldn't attempt it? No way!

How to Check Transmission Fluids

Before you start to add fluid, change the fluid, or even think about fluid, you need to know how much fluid is in your vehicle. If your transmission fluid level isn't right, you can end up with all sorts of drivability and shifting problems that can be remedied by a top off. 

To check the transmission fluid properly, the fluid needs to be at the correct temperature. There is a scan tool (WDS) that can be used to check and monitor your transmission fluid temp. Using the scan tool, you need to run a PID: TFT. This basically stands for trans temp test but in a very different nomenclature. Don't worry about those details. When you are up and running in the temp monitor department, you're ready to proceed.

Test Prep

  1. Using the scan tool (WDS), monitor the transmission fluid temperature (TFT) using PID: TFT.
  2. Start the vehicle.

NOTE: Engine idle speed is approximately 650 rpm. 

Performing the Test

  1. Run the engine until the transmission fluid temperature is between 80 degrees F to 120 degrees F. 
  2. Move the range selector lever slowly through each gear, stopping in each position and allowing the transmission to engage.
  3. Place the range selector lever in the "park" position.
  4. Raise and support the vehicle with the engine running. Don't forget to do this in a safe and calm manner. A running vehicle in the air can turn into a nightmare if you aren't working with safety in mind. Properly support the vehicle on jack stands to be sure it doesn't end up on the ground or on you.
  5. Place a suitable drain pan under the vehicle to catch all of the transmission fluid that is about to come out of the transmission drain plug.
  6. With the transmission range selector lever in the park position, hold the larger drain plug with a wrench and remove the small, center plug using a 3/16-inch Allen wrench.
  7. Allow the fluid to drain. Wait approximately one minute. When the fluid comes out as a thin stream or a drip, the fluid is at the correct level.
  1. If no fluid comes out of the hole, fluid will need to be added. Continue with this procedure.
  2. Install special tool 307-437 into the pan.
  3. Using special tool 303-D104 (an oil extractor), extract approximately one pint of clean automatic transmission fluid from a suitable container.
  4. Using the special tools, fill the transmission with clean automatic transmission fluid.
  5. Remove special tool 303-D104.
  6. Allow the fluid to drain. Wait approximately one minute. When the fluid comes out as a thin stream or drip, the fluid is at the correct level. If no fluid drains from the plug, keep adding fluid in 1/2-pint increments until the fluid starts to drain from the plug.
  7. Remove the special tool from the pan.
  8. Reinstall the small, center plug using a 3/16-inch Allen key. Torque to 89-inch pounds.
  9. Lower the vehicle.
  10. Remove the WDS.
  11. Check the operation of the transmission by moving the range selector lever slowly through each gear, stopping in each position and allowing the transmission to engage.
  12. Raise and support the vehicle with the engine running and check for any leaks.
  1. Lower the vehicle and shut off the engine.